Our History

Max De Pree and Walter Wright in Dialogue

Max De Pree and Walter Wright have been in a mentoring relationship for almost thirty years

The De Pree Center was founded in 1996 by Samuel T. Reeves in honor of his good friend and fellow Fuller Seminary board member Max De Pree. He did so in recognition of the profound influence Max has had upon him and those with whom Max worked. And he was not the only one to observe the ground-breaking impact Max has had on organizational life. In 1997 Max was selected as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Business Enterprise Trust. The award recognized Max’s work to “create a thriving work environment centered around a genuine respect for the skills and contribution of every employee” at Herman Miller. The award also acknowledged his distinct efforts to serve his constituencies in creative and morally thoughtful ways. The De Pree Center hopes to continue and expand upon Max’s legacy by, among other things, emphasizing the importance of relational leadership, character and values.

Dr. Walter C. Wright, Jr., a long-time mentoree of Max De Pree, accepted the directorship when Dr. Robert Banks, the first executive director of the Center, left in 1999. Walt has continued to pursue Max’s idea of relational leadership and further explore how beliefs shape practice of both individuals and organizations. Over the past several years, Walt has worked to bring to the Center a team of people with diverse educational and experiential backgrounds and areas of expertise.

In 2009 the Center’s name was changed from De Pree Leadership Center to Max De Pree Center for Leadership to better identify ourselves.

“I believe that when we’re trying to establish a legacy, we try to be competent in establishing and maintaining relationships. The longer I live and the more I see of organizations, the more I’m forced to the conclusion that at the heart of our organizations is always this matter of competence in relationships. I’m convinced that competence in relationships remains most important in making organizations places of realized potential.”

Max De Pree, Leadership is an Art